Spanking in Developmental Psychology

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Running head: Spanking Effects on Children

Is Spanking Detrimental to Children’s Psychosocial Health? Kaley Schoeph
Ball State University

Is Spanking Detrimental to Children’s Psychosocial Health? Spanking has been used as an appropriate form of discipline for decades and, until recently, received little scrutiny. There have been many obstacles for scientists in determining whether or not spanking is detrimental to a child’s well being. Personal biases, third variables, and ambiguous definitions have all proved to be difficult to overcome in the quest of discovering spanking’s effects. Children are the fragile individuals that will make up the future and their psychological functioning needs to be maintained, which proves the importance of the topic. Anything used in a child’s life can be subjected to questioning, which includes spanking. In this paper, I will talk about the vague definitions found amongst research, other forms of discipline and the effectiveness, and factors that are more likely to contribute to behavioral problems that were overlooked in all research. Despite the points I’m about to make, many scientists have argued that spanking could contribute to detrimental behavioral problems for children, which could inhibit their ability to have positive social and psychological experiences. However, I believe when used as a controlled form of discipline or physical punishment, spanking has no harmful effects on children. Spanking Surfaces as Problem

Until the 1990’s, spanking was commonly used among mothers as a primary form of discipline. An article by Julie Scelfo (2007) showed that in 1988, two-thirds of mothers with children under the age of 6 routinely spanked their child at least three times a week. (2007) National surveys from the later 70’s, early 80’s showed that more than 90 percent of parents spanked their 3-year olds. By the 1990’s however, it was widely agreed in the medical community that corporal punishment was not as effective as other disciplinary techniques and may have harmful side effects. (2007) At the time of the article, over 2,000 parents were asked if they spanked their child and only 9 percent admitted hitting their children ages 2 to 11 years. These results indicate that either spanking is not being used as a form of discipline anymore or those that do spank their children feel compelled to keep it a secret because of society’s implications of spanking. Research has recently been surfacing however, that spanking may not be as harmful as researchers are indicating. Spanking as a Cause of Behavioral Problems Among Children?

According to a study from the University of New Hampshire, it was found that punishment was linked to behavioral problems for children. The article examined a group from a longitudinal study that had been conducted since 1991 and consisted of over 2,000 mothers and children. (Mulvaney & Mebert, 2007) Through a series of home observations and interviews with the mothers, the researchers determined that corporal punishment was linked to increases in child aggression and other externalizing problems, which were never specified. (2007) The researchers argued that even though the data collection was formed through home observations and could contain biases, the fact that behavioral problems still surfaced is a significant finding. The researchers were adamant in their conclusions that corporal punishment is causing serious behavioral problems in children and needs to be eliminated from the disciplinary world. Research opposing spanking was common, but many questions arose considering the validity of the articles. Limitations of Study

Unfortunately, this study also lacks validity and many details are distorted to support their theory. For instance, the study itself recognizes the influence of third variables on their finding, highlighting maternal depression and child temperament. These variables aren’t even considered in their results as influencing the...
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